As NJ COVID-19 case numbers rise, officials prepare for a second wave

P. KENNETH BURNS, WHYY | OCTOBER 9, 2020

NJ Spotlight News

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli at a state briefing on the coronavirus pandemic

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New Jersey on Thursday reported 1,301 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest daily case count since May 29. Ocean County accounted for 285 cases — or 22% — of the daily total while 128 cases — or 10% — were attributed to Monmouth County. The state’s cumulative number of COVID-19 cases is 211,148.

The state reported another 11 deaths, bringing the number of fatalities to 14,373; the number of probable deaths is at 1,788.

The daily percent positivity rate is 3.69%, while the rate of transmission is 1.22, meaning that for every 100 new cases, the virus spreads to at least 122 more people.

There are currently 652 people hospitalized, the highest number since Aug. 6. Of those hospitalized, 230 patients await test results and 148 are in intensive care.

Preparing for a second wave

With coronavirus case numbers hitting highs not seen in months, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during a coronavirus briefing Thursday that officials are anticipating a second wave of COVID-19 to hit the state.

“If individuals do not adhere to social distancing, masking guidelines, washing your hands, staying home if you’re sick; this wave has a potential to become a surge,” she said.

The commissioner said they are taking lessons learned about the coronavirus over the summer and preparing now. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, antiviral medication and ventilators are being stockpiled. She added that officials are continuing to work with long-term care facilities on infection control and stockpiling.

But Persichilli says staffing is her biggest concern.

“[If] health care workers fall ill, like in the prior surge, we will have a problem,” she said. “Unlike March and April, when health care workers from other states came to New Jersey to help out, those workers are now fully engaged in fighting this virus in their own states.”

Persichilli noted that asymptomatic spread is “more prevalent than initially thought,” so handwashing, mask-wearing and physical distancing are even more important and that “inside is more of a problem than outside.”

“As the cold weather sets in, and people move indoors, the threat of spread is even greater,” she said.

Watching Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean counties

Persichilli said officials continue to monitor areas where cases have increased, notably Lakewood in Ocean County. Of the 285 cases reported Thursday in Ocean County, 206 of them are in Lakewood.

“In Lakewood, we are seeing increases primarily in persons between 19 and 49 years of age,” she said. “Primarily in white, non-Hispanic groups and predominantly in males.”

Persichilli added that some of the increase in cases are related to gatherings and religious services that occurred in late September.

The state is working with local leaders to increase testing and contact tracing in addition to providing ways to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, more than 1,000 people were tested in Lakewood.

In addition, officials are also watching college students, particularly in Middlesex and Monmouth counties.

“Any communal living presents an at-risk situation if masking and social physical distancing is not adhered to,” she said.

Persichilli said they are working with the health departments in those counties as well as university officials to expand testing and tracing.

Several “hot spot” teams have been set up by the state health department in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Another team has been set up to work with colleges and universities.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-10-09 03:15:05 -0700